Friday, November 12, 2010

Editors, Bloggers and Agents Are People Too by Cortnee Howard

Happy Friday, everybody! Our guest today is a young dynamite in the publishing world. She runs a popular collaborative writing blog, reads like it's going out of style, and is a self-proclaimed nerd. Operation Awesome, meet Cortnee Howard!

Cortnee Howard is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. She is a former National Merit Scholar and current Presidential Scholar at the University of Alabama. Although she is originally from Cleveland, Ohio she currently divides her time between Houston, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. At the age of 21, she is the youngest voting member of the National Book Critics Circle and often finds herself reading more books at one time than is typically advisable or healthy.

bio from BDCWB,
pic from twitter
 Sometimes I wonder what writers would do if we didn’t have the internet.

Would we still be friends with each other? Would we even know each other? Would bestselling authors like John Scalzi and J.A. Konrath still be famous?

Even though it hasn’t been that long, it’s already starting to feel like the internet has been around forever. And, like most things that have been around forever, we are starting to take it for granted.

Of course, having constant access to our favorite writing celebs can be awesome--and even helpful. Following the blogs of your favorite agent or publisher helps to keep you in the loop. It prevents you from sending queries to the wrong editors and pitches to the wrong publishers.  But most importantly-- it provides an invaluable perspective on how the publishing process functions as a whole. There are hundreds of successful writers who got their start following industry influencers like Colleen Lindsay and Nathan Bransford. And before I became the editor of the Best Damn Creative Writing Blog I would spend hours on writing forums and sites, devouring any nugget of news that I could.

But after I founded the site, my views changed a little.

As I started to work more with publishers and agents, one of the first things that surprised me was how quickly I became engulfed with work—and how easy it is to get behind. Our site has nearly 30 staff members and managing account relationships with publishers, coordinating with advertisers and vetting questions from persistent writers has become a round the clock job. And I love it. We all love it. Empowering writers is an amazing feeling. There is nothing like watching your readers get picked up by an agent, or sell their first book or get accepted into an MFA program. And it’s something that we rave about in this industry all the time.

Except, lately we have been having a problem.

Because Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and Blackberrys keep most of us plugged in 24/7, some writers (although thankfully, still a very small number) have started to become abusive. Overcalling, over-emailing, over-commenting and over-tweeting can actually do a lot more harm than good. One of my good friends actually called me in tears last week because a client sent her 37 (rude) e-mails after she didn’t respond to the person’s call (she was at her aunt’s funeral).

Although a lot of agents, bloggers and editors do their best to respond to your e-mails and phone calls promptly, sometimes there just isn’t time. Our kids get sick, our cars break down, our parents die, our computers crash and our phones lose service--just like everyone else.

Trust me when I say that everyone in the publishing industry, from review sites to literary magazines, loves writers and would do almost anything to help them succeed.

But sometimes we have bad days too.

So don’t take our random bouts of silence too personally.

Instead, the next time you’re emailing your agent, or @replying a writer, don’t forget to occasionally ask them how their day was or if they enjoyed their weekend. Because even in this fast paced industry, we’re all still human.

And a little bit of kindness can go a long way J


Lisa_Gibson said...

Wonderful post and something to always keep in mind.
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Len Lambert said...

Nice post, Cortnee. A good reminder for everybody. :)))

Kell Andrews said...

Thanks for the post, Cortnee. And how was your day?

Shannon O'Donnell said...

This is a wonderful and important reminder. Living in a world of instant gratification calls for definite etiquette and boundaries.

Unknown said...

Great post! Thanks.

erica and christy said...

Wow, people really can be insensitive. Writing is a business. We should be professional and I'm sorry that some people aren't. (I'm a teacher, trust me, some people don't understand we have lives outside of our jobs. Hugs.)

Can't help but wish you a great weekend!!

Angela Kulig said...

So funny, I agree. Actually I wrote a blog called 'Agents are people too.' Last month. I think people just need to stop and realize we aren't dealing with robots. Golden rule peeps.

Clara said...

I think it was pretty unprofessional to send 37 rude emails to someone who's away for a funeral. I think that, as much as we expect people of the lit. biz to be professional, we writers have to be also, very professional. And caring would be nice too, I mean, chrissakes, poor woman!
Totally agree with you: a bit of kindness makes a whole world's difference.

Jessica Ferguson said...

Excellent post and right on target. Email--the Internet--has taken away our professionalism and made us pretty aggressive. Plus, my husband told me the other day that he can leave his work at the office while I take mine everywhere. He's right. I feel guilty not taking my Blackberry to the bathroom with me!